Belfast-born Neil Martin is a composer and musician with an international reputation who enjoys a most varied and rewarding career encompassing opera, dance, theatre, film, television, radio, symphonic concert hall and studio.
Along with the world-renowned dancer and choreographer, Jean Butler, he created this is an Irish dance, a duet for solo dancer and solo cellist that premiered to a sell-out run in Danspace, New York in November, 2015 and sell-out performances in Washington DC in May, 2016. Other dance scores include Neither Either (2014) for Liz Roche/Maiden Voyage, and 4 Quartets (2009), a dance project based on TS Eliot’s poems.
His debut opera, Long Story Short:The Belfast Opera, with libretto by Glenn Patterson, played a sold-out run in Belfast in June 2016. Olagón, a concerto for uilleann pipes and chamber orchestra commissioned by Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland, premiered in DC in May 2016. Amongst major symphonic and choral commissions are The Great and First Object (2013) for soprano and orchestra; Further Shore (2012) – an orchestral and choral setting of part of Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, for Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland; a setting of the Exsultet (2012) that played in the National Cathedral, Washington DC; a setting of the Agnus Dei for a cappella choir, premiered at Ground Zero, NYC (2009); Lacrimae Rerum, for strings (2008); the choral symphony OSSA (2007), and no tongue can tell (2004), a concerto for uilleann pipes and symphony orchestra written for and performed by Liam O'Flynn that opened the Belfast Festival. 100 fiddles, 55 degrees north (2012) is a suite for 100 traditional fiddle players, premiered with musicians from Newfoundland, Sweden, Scotland and Ireland.
Scores for television, film and radio include the award-winning movie Hell’s Pavement (2009), Trevor Griffiths' RTS award-winning feature-length tv drama on Aneurin Bevan, Food For Ravens, many short dramas, television series and documentaries for BBC, C4 and RTE. Neil has composed and directed music extensively for theatre, including productions on Broadway and in the West End, and has been collaborating with Stephen Rea and Field Day Theatre Company since 1988 - notable productions include Sam Shepard's play, A Particle of Dread (Signature Theatre, NYC, 2014/5), Farewell and Half a Glass of Water (2012), Northern Star (1998) and St Oscar (1989). Other theatre work includes The Conquest of Happiness (European tour, 2013) and Belfast By Moonlight (2013) and Women on the Verge of HRT (West End,1997). In 2011, Neil worked as a choral director for a series of children's tv shows for the Jim Henson Company, aired on PBS. Upcoming work includes choral, orchestral and chamber commissions, as well as international performance. Neil has presented programmes on both television and radio, for BBC and RTE, including in 2012 his hosting for 12 months of a weekly 2-hour Saturday evening radio programme on BBC.
A cellist and an uilleann piper, he has worked with many leading musicians, both on stage and in the studio - these include Liam O'Flynn, Bryn Terfel, LSO, RPO, all the principle orchestras in Ireland, Christy Moore, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Altan, Shaun Davey, Mary Black and Donal Lunny. In his roles as producer, arranger and musician Neil has contributed to more than a hundred albums and performance venues range from Carnegie Hall to Mostar Bridge, from the Royal Albert Hall to the Palazzo Vecchio.
His compositions for The West Ocean String Quartet have received global acclaim, and the quartet's fourth album, An Indigo Sky (2013) was voted "Album of the Year" in the Irish Times. All of the quartet’s albums have been played aboard the International Space Station. Knocknashee, a song Neil co-wrote with Brendan Graham (author of You Raise Me Up) was in the Billboard Top 10 World Music Album Charts in 2011. A keen believer in the process of music education, in addition to having taught at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, he has curated workshops on composition and performance for many years, including two recent projects for U2's Music Generation Programme. In 2014, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, invited Neil to perform, arrange and conduct music for a concert staged in the Royal Albert Hall, London, to mark the historic inaugural state visit of an Irish President to England. Also in 2014, in recognition of his contribution through music to the library, he was made an honorary life member of the Linen Hall Library, one of the oldest private libraries in the world.